With an extensive spectacular coastline plus the islands, the Portuguese culture is strongly connected with the ocean, and most of the country’s popular cities and towns are situated by the sea. From major cities to charming fishing villages, the Portugal coastal towns leave visitors speechless for their beauty and charm. In this post, I will list the 13 most beautiful towns on the Portugal coast.
Located on the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west. And exactly because of its location, the climate in Portugal is less severe than in the rest of Europe, a good reason as to why the country is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the continent all year round.
And with sunny days and warm temperatures, there is nothing better than going to the beach, right?
Well, know that Portugal’s beautiful seaside towns are known not only for their magnificent beaches but also for their lush landscapes and warm hospitality.
They are also rich in history, culture, and gastronomy. It is easy to find a plethora of palaces, sandy beaches, enchanting landscapes, medieval castles, and unique local cuisine.
Additionally, Portugal has the third-highest fish consumption in the world, staying behind only South Korea and Norway.
In other words, seafood is the core of its gastronomy and when you visit the coastal cities during your Portugal itinerary you should make sure to try some of its traditional dishes to get a complete experience of the country’s coastal lifestyle.
Portugal coastal towns map
The top 13 Portugal coastal towns
Even though Portugal is a very small country, its coastline stretches over 1115 miles. And you can imagine that there are many beautiful and interesting coastal towns to explore. So, here is a list of the 13 most beautiful coastal towns in Portugal, from north to south.
Matosinhos is one of the most well-known beautiful towns on the coast of Portugal not only for its proximity to Porto but above all for its attractions.
Matosinhos has the best beaches in the Porto region, in addition to the fresh fish and seafood that comes out of the sea and river directly to the local restaurants.
But it is not only fish and beaches that Matosinhos is made of! The town also has a rich history and among its main attractions are the Bom Jesus de Matosinhos Church, the Leça do Balio Monastery, and Piscina das Marés, a set of saltwater pools.
Matosinhos Beach itself is a great place to go for a walk, sunbathe, go swimming, or even surfing. In addition, you can visit the Castelo do Queijo, also known as Forte de São Francisco Xavier, which was built to protect the region from pirate attacks in the 17th century.
As I mentioned, gastronomy plays an important role in northern Portugal’s culture and the motto is “from the sea straight to the table”.
Along Rua Heróis de França and parallel cobblestone streets, good restaurants are not lacking and Dom Peixe, Marisqueira dos Pobres and Marisqueira Antiga are well known for serving fresh and local seafood.
Located in the mouth of the Vouga River, the charming Aveiro is a discontinuous territory in northern Portugal. Formed by a set of river islands called Ria de Aveiro, the “Venice of Portugal” is characterized by a network of canals lined with colorful gondola-like boats.
These boats, known as moliceiros, are on the top of must-dos in Aveiro since a boat tour offers the most unique view of the city.
Aveiro is also home to the Costa Nova do Prado, where striped, multi-colored fishing shacks steal the show.
Located just 44 miles south of Porto, Costa Nova is one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal and an excellent destination to spend a day away from the “northern capital” of Portugal.
Another highlight in the list of the best things to do in Aveiro is tasting the traditional sweet of the region: ovos moles.
The recipe for this specialty takes egg yolks and sugar and was invented by the nuns of the Convent of Jesus of Aveiro before the 19th century.
If you are looking for accommodation, an ideal place to find a good one is the historical center of Aveiro.
Besides being where most of the attractions are with its charming Art Nouveau buildings, it is also where you will find several restaurants and shops.
One of the most modern lodging options is the Meliá Ria Hotel & Spa right on the waterfront. Meanwhile, the Hotel das Salinas is a bit cheaper but still very well located.
Located a short drive away from Lisbon, the peaceful seaside town of Nazaré offers breathtaking views from the top of a large cliff which you can reach by funicular or by car.
There are several attractions in Nazaré, but, for sure, one of the most interesting is the area of Sítio da Nazaré, at the Mirante do Suberco. Sitting on top of a huge cliff, the area has a privileged view of the town and both the Nazaré Beach and Praia do Norte, where some of the biggest waves in the world happen.
That is right, the underwater Nazaré canyon is responsible for some of the biggest waves in the world, surfed by the most experienced big wave surfers.
If you want to see the giant waves, know that the best time to visit Nazaré is during winter and the best view is from the Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo. If you are in the country during this time, I can personally say it is worth seeing the region!
For those who want to stay right in front of Nazaré Beach, a good option is the comfortable Hotel Mar Bravo.
But if you are on a budget, two other options, equally well located, with ocean views, are the Adega Oceano Hotel and the Hotel Ribamar. The fact is that Nazaré has an abundant supply of lodging, from the most luxurious to very cool hostels, after all, it is a city that not only receives many tourists but also surfers.
Situated on a peninsula with about 6 miles in perimeter, Peniche is yet another popular destination among surfers. This is all thanks to Praia dos Supertubos.
In fact, this is considered one of the best surfing spots in Europe and graciously nicknamed the “European Pipeline“.
A little less hectic and on the other side of the peninsula, Baleal Beach is quieter, with calmer waters. It presents good conditions to learn or practice outdoor activities such as windsurfing.
The ideal stop for those who visit Peniche in the summer and want to enjoy the beach with their family.
Historically, Peniche was also home to an important fortification that went from military protection to a prison.
Still, this town is mainly visited for its coastal connection, including a prominent fishing industry. And besides spending days on the sand and watching surf competitions, Peniche is close to truly spectacular monuments like the Berlengas Island.
And since Peniche is a fishing city, fresh fish is an important tradition. There is no lack of restaurants where you can enjoy the famous “caldeirada“, with fresh fish and vegetables from the garden.
You can also try the grilled sardines, recognized by many as the “best sardines in Portugal“. Some of the best restaurants in town include Os Americano’s, Tasca do Joel, and Taberna do Ganhão.
Azenhas do Mar
With approximately 800 inhabitants and located near the mystical Sintra castles, Azenhas do Mar is a small town on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic coast. Azenhas do Mar is actually a perfect day trip from Lisbon since it is only 17 miles away.
Literally embedded in the coastal cliffs, this quiet fishing town offers a beautiful beach, incredible views, and delicious seafood.
A unique characteristic of Azenhas do Mar is its little white houses with traditional tiles on their facades. It is like something out of a movie!
Right from the start, what draws visitors’ attention is the natural pool between the village and the sea, ideal for cooling off on summer days.
Another place that deserves your attention is the belvedere, from where you have a very privileged panoramic view of the village and the sea.
Besides enjoying the spectacular scenery, you should also visit the watermill! After all, this is the one that gives the small village its name.
Also, a valuable tip is to have a meal at the Restaurante Azenhas do Mar, which is set into the rock and has several environments, some of them open and overlooking the sea.
Featuring both mountain and sea views, Cascais is yet another town very close to both Lisbon and Sintra.
Paradisiacal beaches, culture, history, and leisure define Cascais, making it a very sought-after place by tourists.
Among Cascais’ highlights are its city centre, the rock formation of Boca do Inferno, the fortress of Cascais Citadel, and of course Cascais beaches. Praia do Albano, Praia do Guincho and Praia da Rainha are destinations that cannot be missed on your itinerary.
The fishing village is a charm! Its houses and cobbled streets are beautiful, and its buildings are very colorful.
You can shop in the local stores and stroll through the parks, squares, and museums. Cascais has plenty of good restaurants, with food from all over the world and for all tastes.
On the way to Guincho beach is one of the best restaurants to eat clams, Furnas do Guincho. Another equally good option is Monte Maro, the one Michelin star restaurant in the Fortaleza do Guincho hotel.
Finally, if you are in search of dessert, the Bijou de Cascais pastry shop serves traditional sweets and the Gelados Santini offers delicious fruit sorbets.
Odeceixe enchants from the peacefulness of the village to its natural beauty: its windmill, the picturesque village, and its beach.
Next to the Seixe River, the village sits on the green hills of the Natural Park of Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina with rich fauna and flora.
The cute town marks the border between the Algarve and the Alentejo. On steep hillsides, it has little white houses and lively restaurants with tables on the sidewalk on weekends.
Located down the valley, Odeceixe Beach is classified as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal, and you can bathe in the river and sea.
The clear water is so incredible that the whole scenario transmits great calmness and peace. The beach is also quite popular amongst local surfers.
The best accommodations in Odeceixe village include Casas do Moinho Turismo de Aldeia with renovated and well-decorated village houses, the Monte do Cardal with its relaxing pool, and Carlos’s Beach Hostel, which is not only cheaper but also closer to the beach.
Now, moving a bit more to the south, Aljezur is considered the heart of the Vincentian coast, or better yet the West Coast of the Algarve!
Usually overlooked by tourists looking for the more popular cities in southern Portugal, such as Albufeira, it is a hot spot among locals, either during the summer months for sunbathing or in the winter for surfing.
In addition to the traditional Portuguese appearance of the infrastructure and historical remains, the beauty of the region is enhanced by the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina.
Aljezur is distinguished by its stunning landscapes, geological wealth, and the best beaches in Portugal including Arrifana Beach, Vale dos Homens Beach, Vale Figueira Beach, Cordoama Beach, and Castelejo Beach.
In addition, Aljezur also holds plenty of history, and the Aljezur Castle with its two towers and a cistern still tells all about it.
The lodging options are quite varied and also well spread around Aljezur. Some beaches are practically deserted and have no options, but the most popular places have options nearby. Some good choices Arrifana Ocean View Guest House and Aljezur Villas Hostel.
Also part of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, the West Coast, Sagres is a village in the municipality of Vila do Bispo.
With beautiful beaches, high cliffs, rocky outcrops, and an immense blue ocean that alternates between shades of green and blue, Sagres is most popular for its natural scenery.
Also, famous for surfing, Sagres breathes water sports. You will probably see its waters filled with surfboards, especially if you visit Zavial Beach, Tonel Beach, or Ponta Ruiva Beach.
Not to mention Beliche Beach, where you will also find one of the best restaurants in Sagres, Terra Restaurant.
Interestingly, Sagres was considered for many centuries as the end of the known world and when you visit the Cabo São Vicente, you understand why. With a historic red lighthouse, the cape is the most southwestern point in Europe.
Another historic landmark there is the Sagres Fortress, built between the 11th and 18th centuries.
And a tip that is worth gold if you are looking for the best souvenirs in Portugal: the store Artesanato a Mó has a very photogenic facade and offers handicrafts and Portuguese ceramics.
Lagos has the merit of having in its town some of the most beautiful golden beaches of the Algarve. For example, Praia da Dona Ana has been elected one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
However, the beaches of Batata, Luz, Pinhão, Camilo, and Porto de Mós are just as wonderful, and you should take the time to visit them all.
Overall, Lagos is a warm, carefree, quiet town with many touristic and cultural interests. It is the perfect place for those who like to combine beach and culture.
Lagos also has some historic landmarks worth mentioning such as the Old Town, Avenida dos Descobrimentos, Municipal Market, Lagos Marina, and Forte da Ponta da Bandeira.
Because Lagos has a picturesque historic center and a wide range of local restaurants and bars, it is the perfect city to have as a base during your Algarve itinerary.
Given the trendy style of Lagos and the many bars, this is also a great place to go out drinking during your trip!
With delicious Mexican food, the Green Room – Burritos & Cocktails is a great option if you also want a snack to accompany your cocktail. And if you want to know more about accommodations check out my article on where to stay in Lagos where I share different options for any budget.
Ferragudo is located in the municipality of Lagoa, between the city of Portimão and the village of Carvoeiro, also in the Algarve region.
With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, the destination has become increasingly frequent in the itineraries of domestic and foreign tourists.
Not for nothing, Ferragudo enchants mainly by its charming historic center on the banks of the Arade River, the delicious gastronomy, and the paradisiacal beaches surrounded by dramatic cliffs.
With just over 1500 inhabitants, this small fishing village mixes picturesque scenery with a bucolic atmosphere.
Be sure to wander unhurriedly through the whitewashed narrow streets and gaze at the view of the Arade River and Ferragudo’s coastline filled with colorful fishing boats.
In addition, you can visit the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, one of Ferragudo’s oldest historical monuments, located opposite the São João Castle.
Some of the other attractions in Ferragudo are the Farol da Ponta do Altar and the mouth of the Arade river itself.
The coastal strip of Ferragudo has nine beaches, of which I highlight: Praia da Angrinha, Praia Grande, and Praia dos Caneiros. A complete itinerary of Ferragudo should include a boat trip to the caves of Lagoa, which includes the unique Benagil Cave.
Unlike many of the resort towns in the Algarve, Tavira is a bit more reminiscent of the countryside, mainly because of its slower pace.
Visiting Tavira is a lesson of history, popular culture, and the strong ties between its population and the river and sea waters that sustain it.
Connected by bridges, the Old and the Roman bridges, the city of 37 churches is also known as the “Venice of the Algarve”. Some of Tavira’s main attractions include Praça da República, Largo da Misericórdia, Castelo de Tavira, Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo, and Jardim do Coreto.
Tavira also has some of the best Algarve beaches right there at Tavira Island: the Terra Estreita beach, the naturist beach of Naked Man, and Praia do Barril, where you will be surprised by a graveyard of anchors.
So, you can only imagine that the best way to explore Tavira’s coast is through a boat tour visiting a few of the sand barrier islands of Ria Formosa.
In addition, Tavira offers a wide range of accommodation to suit all tastes, needs, and wallets. Budget accommodation is at HI Tavira – Pousada de Juventude.
The cheapest accommodations are usually Residencial Marés and Taah Billa Guest House. The Hotel Vila Galé Tavira is the perfect option for those looking for comfort. And for a luxury stay, there is no place like the Pousada Convento Tavira.
Visiting Funchal is one of the first things we do when visiting the island of Madeira since the city is the capital of the archipelago.
As a bonus, because of its strategic position with good accessibility, you can explore many attractions of Madeira from Funchal.
In addition, Funchal has many museums, stores, restaurants, and hotels, being the city with the best infrastructure on the island.
Some of the best places and experiences not to be missed when visiting Funchal include walking around Funchal’s main square, visiting Funchal’s Cathedral and the Lavradores Fish Market, going up in the cable car, exploring the Botanical Gardens, walking around the Old Town, and of course, tasting the local cuisine of Madeira Island.
Between grilled limpets, bolo do caco with butter, and seafood kebabs, you will fall in love with the local gastronomy.
Depending on where you are staying in Funchal, you can walk, eat, and browse the stores, without depending on a car all the time.
About the author
I’m Camila, an Oceanographer from Brazil which is where my journey began. My studies have taken me to unique places around the world since I was a teenager. I found in my academic career the chance to come across different cultures and languages while working as a scientist. By having lived in several countries I have been able to share my experiences as a travel content writer for the last 4 years and I still have plenty more to tell. I have a great passion for the outdoors and animals, especially dogs and seals (which, let’s be honest, are basically sea dogs!).